San Luis Obispo rancher Dan De Vaul appeared in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Thursday for a hearing on whether a receiver will oversee his property.
In this civil case, county lawyers allege De Vaul has violated property codes, including allowing people to occupy illegal housing.
De Vaul operates Sunny Acres, a nonprofit sober living program for addicts of drugs and alcohol, some of whom are housed on his property.
But De Vaul’s lawyer, John Belsher, claims his client has taken action to address violations at the 72-acre ranch on Los Osos Valley Road.
County Chief Building Inspector Cheryl Journey spent much of the afternoon Thursday testifying that her inspection Oct. 11 of De Vaul’s property showed illegal conditions. Those included electrical hookups, plumbing, and food and furniture storage that don’t comply with code.
Journey also said mattresses and other items in a shed indicated human habitation.
Belsher’s cross-examination included comment that a barn, one of the buildings in question, was built in the 1950s before permitting codes applied to the building. Journey said she believes some of the hookups were put in recently.
Belsher also probed Journey on food storage he believes is legal and steps De Vaul took to demolish buildings, including illegal bathrooms.
He also said the evidence of improper habitation was shoddy since nobody was observed directly living illegally.
If the county’s case is successful, a receiver would be appointed who would supervise the code compliance, charging De Vaul for any costs associated.
De Vaul believes a receiver’s demands on his property could be so expensive they’d lead to the loss of his ranch — a price he estimates at $1.5 million.
The county is also demanding that De Vaul cover attorneys’ fees in the case, which could amount to more than $100,000.
“I have been doing everything I’ve been asked of the county to comply,” De Vaul said. “They’re trying to run me out of business.”
The hearing is scheduled to continue next Thursday at 11 a.m. in Judge Charles S. Crandall’s courtroom.